Tags: Spotlight

Start Here

Posted 04.14.15 by Kate

Sometimes a place can impress itself so greatly upon you that you see the layers of time flipping forward and backward. Standing at Rio Salado and Mill Avenue, I always get a glimpse into a larger story. 

First, it all started here. This is where commerce started, this was the connection to other emerging cities, this was Tempe’s commencement.  And so this is also the origin of the grid. Do the numbers and Rio Salado is 1st Street, for all intense and purposes. The City grew out and you see that build as you walk South down Mill Avenue.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the living that took place on these streets and in these buildings. People met here, they shook hands, they ate dinner, spoke of “what ifs”, they listened to music, children bounced on their knees and tugged at their sleeves, they fell in and out of love. Because it all started here.

Next, the story unfolds so well from this vantage point.  It shows historic references in the same snapshot as current growth.  Right now people are working to construct a tower to house more workers. They are sweating today just like they sweated inside the Flour Mill over 100 years ago.  These are jobs, good jobs, and people are coming from all corners of the Valley to work here. Microsoft, Silicon Valley Bank, Amazon, Lifelock, and many more. The Hayden Butte is in the same frame overseeing the busyness of business and how it hasn’t changed in all these years.

The green space that spills out into the intersection represents recreation and respite. Today this 25-acre park gets used and abused all year long for everything from a triathlon to a single runner. It has been so many things in the past, public swimming, a movie theater, ice rink, even gypsy territory, but it always speaks to our desire to relax and take a moment to breathe.

And then there is tomorrow’s story. We have heard the plans for Monti’s and the Flour Mill. This isn’t a sales pitch for either of those projects, but a recognition that these two places are in transition. Transition is tough and we sometimes want to hug the tree but we recognize that we can’t be stagnant. If there is one thing that this scene reveals, it is the reliability of evolution. 

Finally for me, this intersection eloquently depicts our challenges. How do we marry these things…the history, the growth, the new, the mainstay, the overused public space, the distance from newer destinations, the visitors, the workers, even the runners?

“Start here” this intersection says to me. Alluring and alluding, the perfect intersection.